Schwab Samuel Major Jr.

July 2, 1924December 2, 2018

Schwab Samuel Major, Jr., 94, of Kansas City, Missouri passed away on 2 December 2018.

A Celebration of his life will be held at 2:00 PM on Sunday, 24 February 2019 at All Souls Unitarian Church, 4501 Walnut Street, Kansas City, Missouri.

Schwab is remembered as a lifelong learner and educator. However, this passion of his was interrupted early in his life by World War II. Schwab was born in Windsor, Missouri on July 2, 1924 to Schwab and Meda Major, the oldest of two children. His sister, Mary Virginia Major, was born 5 years later. Schwab would later report that at the age of 5, he thought the 4th of July fireworks that often started at the beginning of the month were really celebrating his birthday.

Schwab graduated from high school in May of 1942. Of course, World War II had started in his Senior year. So, he immediately offered his service to our country by entering the Enlisted Reserve Corps. While he was waiting to be called to active duty, Schwab demonstrated his desire to keep learning by completing a year and a half of college at the University of Wichita. His desires at the time were to major in Chemistry with minors in Mathematics, Physics, and German.

The Army, when he was called to duty in May 1943, quickly recognized his ability to grasp complex problems. They sent him to Army Specialized Training in Berkeley, California, which led to his assignment as a reconnaissance scout in an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon. His 11th Armored Division platoon headed to the European Theater in late 1944. While there, Schwab earned 3 Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He headed back to the States at the end of 1945 and was honorably discharged in January of 1946.

After the war, it was back to his love of learning, graduating from the University of Wichita with a bachelors degree in Chemistry in May 1949. During his years in college he started 3 hobbies that he would put significant effort into throughout his years. One was carpentry when worked on the college’s stage crew in scenery construction, another was learning to fly, and one was meteorology when he worked as a meteorologist for the Kansas Air National Guard.

He continued on to earn advanced degrees at Kansas State University, changing his field of interest from Chemistry to Physics. He earned his Master’s degree in August, 1953. Along the way he got a taste of engineering work at Central Crystal Laboratory, Cessna Aircraft, Derby Oil, and Boeing-Wichita. More importantly, Schwab found someone to whom he dedicated his life; his bride Wilma Briscoe. They married on 10 June 1951. There first child arrived in March of 1952, Schwab, III. With his first child, Schwab got started on another hobby model railroading and photography started creeping into his life.

After his Master’s, Schwab entered the field that became his passion - teaching. He started at Southwestern College in Winfield Kansas as a Physics instructor. He furthered his teaching career by moving to Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. There, Schwab and Wilma had their second child Karen. But his defining teaching position came when the family moved to Kansas City in 1959. He became a Physics professor at the University of Kansas City which would later become UMKC in 1963.

In 1960, Schwab and Wilma added their third and final child to the family, Karl. After completing their family, Schwab wanted to continue his education and enrolled in the Physics PhD program at Kansas State University. He was able to do his dissertation research into the structures of metals, locally, at the the Midwest Research Institute. K State awarded a PhD to Schwab in January of 1967.

As his children grew up, he tried pass his enthusiasm for learning to his children by displaying his deep interest in his hobbies. Not only the ones mentioned before, but new ones like hiking, backpacking and politics. He also rekindled his passion for flying that he had put on a hiatus when he was starting his family. He pushed himself forward until he became a certificated instructor pilot.

In 1981, Schwab ended his 22-year career at UMKC to explore other adventures. In that year, he became the head of technical staff development at AlliedSignal Aerospace. He essentially became dean of their continuing education program for engineers. In between his full-time job, he dabbled as a consultant in management and public affairs. He was one of the driving forces in drawing the Jackson County legislative district boundaries that we have today.

Retirement came in 1990. This allowed him to become more active in his church, All Souls Unitarian. He was happy to see his youngest son married to Sari Lane and the arrival of his two grandchildren, McKayla and Mathew.

Schwab is survived by his wife of 67 years, Wilma, his sister Mary Virginia, and his children Schwab III, Karen and Karl.


  • Schwab Samuel Major, Sr. (deceased), Father
  • Elmeda Florence Ann (Fults) Major (deceased), Mother
  • Wilma Jean Major, Wife of 67 years
  • Mary Virginia, Sister
  • Schwab Major, III, Son
  • Karen Major, Daughter
  • Karl Major, Son


24 February

Celebration of Life

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church

4501 Walnut Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64111


Schwab Samuel Major Jr.

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